Imagine you’re a tailor. You depend heavily on local business, and your area’s home to several competitors. When a potential customer searches for ‘North Shore tailor,’ say, how high on the page do you come up? Are you above your competitors or below them?
Strong search engine optimisation, better known by its abbreviation SEO, can be the difference between a thriving business and one that’s just scraping by. In this post, we’ll define SEO and outline the fundamentals of the concept in order to give you a solid foundation on which to build your own SEO practice. Read on to learn more!
What is SEO?
We like to visualise SEO as an iceberg, with the above-water tip representing the visible ‘on-the-page factors’ and the unseen, below-the-surface chunk representing the ‘off-the-page’ factors (more on both those terms later).
As the name suggests, SEO involves optimising each aspect of your website to make it more attractive to search engines, in turn encouraging them to rank you higher when a user performs a relevant search. It’s sort of like free publicity in that there’s a difference between SEO rankings (organic traffic) and paid advertising — so if you’re not doing whatever you can to improve your SEO, you’re actively passing up unpaid traffic that’s likely going to your competitors.
How does SEO work?
SEO begins with search engines crawling every webpage, collecting information, and using their own unique algorithms to spit out search results they feel will be most useful to the searcher.
For the likes of Google and Safari, this last piece — providing users with the most accurate search results possible — is the goal of SEO, which means your goal as a business must be to help the engine do just that.
Each browser’s SEO algorithm differs slightly, but in general, the key to higher rankings lies in ensuring that your website has all the pieces necessary to appeal to search engines. So what exactly are these pieces?
What factors influence your SEO rank?
For robust SEO, lead with content. The more frequently you publish fresh, relevant content (blogs, ebooks, downloadable resources, infographics, etc.), the more weight search engines will ascribe to your website. Remember: search engines want to provide their users with value, so they’re looking for organisations that can help them do that.
Within that content, emphasise your keywords. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer; using our tailor example from the beginning, what’s your audience searching for? Is it ‘North Shore tailor’? ‘Best tailors in the Auckland area’? Do some research — and once you’ve identified the keywords and phrases you want to rank for, build them into your content.
Content and keywords represent two components otherwise known as on-page factors. The parts of SEO that are within the control of the page owner, on-page factors also include website structure and logistics (Do your pages load quickly? Does the flow of your site make sense in the context of user experience?) and behind-the-scenes workings such as title tags, meta descriptions, and hyperlinks to your products and other content.
Off-page factors are largely outside your control and are driven by a search engine’s desire to provide users with reputable, trustworthy search results. They include things such as link building (carefully curated links to your site from credible publishers) and social engagement (shares from quality accounts and influencers, number of likes and comments on your posts) — and though you can’t directly manage them, you can improve your off-page factors by fostering relationships with worthy partners and building a loyal customer base.
What practical steps can you take to win at SEO?
SEO can seem intimidating, but if you break it down into its simplest form — making your website as helpful and relevant to your audience as possible — it’s much easier to implement actionable changes. Here are a few quick, practical tips to help you win at SEO:
- Research the most relevant keywords for your specific industry, and build them into your site and your content. Publish fresh content designed around your keywords on a regular basis.
- Overhaul your website’s metadata to optimise it for search terms.
- Within your own content, hyperlink pertinent words and phrases to other content pieces you’ve published. Expand on this internal link network by establishing an external network, done by building relationships with trustworthy partners and having them link back to you.
- Keep an eye on where your competitors rank for your industry’s keywords, and note what they do well in terms of SEO. Use these benchmarks to improve upon your own SEO factors.
- Plan a robust content schedule to ensure you’re regularly putting out valuable information.
A quick wrap-up
It’s critical that you view your SEO strategy as an interconnected web in which each part strengthens the others. If any one component is weak (i.e. if you have a sub-par content game or haven’t put work into improving your page titles), the entire strategy will weaken as a result — so your best chance at success is to optimise each piece of the puzzle to the best of your ability.
Want to see how your SEO stacks up? Talk to us about a free SEO benchmarking audit, or head here to request one.